Why every organization needs a Devil’s Advocate

dev·il’s ad·vo·cate
a person who expresses a contentious opinion in order to provoke debate or test the strength of the opposing arguments.
I strongly believe this should be a standing position in all companies and organizations. It should be breaking news when a top DA steps down. Twitter should explode when there’s a corporate battle for the best.
Corporations know how important this is. Non-profit organizations, on the other hand, need a crash course in not jumping at the first thing you see. I was listening to an Adobe Max workshop a few years ago, the speaker was presenting on working with organizations. He made a comment at the end while answering questions that really stuck with me. He said, “organizations value information from the outside more than they do the inside, and that’s sad.” It immediately grabbed my attention because I had witnessed that same thing too many times to count from the organizations I’ve worked with. I thought it was just me, I was overjoyed to learn there were others out there that had experienced the same thing.
I have been told I don’t like someone because I questioned the process they were using. (And oh yeah, the process was wasting thousands of dollars). I’ve been told I was being too stringent because I was requiring a person to be a current member to get the member benefit. Was I asking too much? I’ve had ideas ignored until a man presented the same thing and is then told they are brilliant. But when I assume the role of devil’s advocate to give an idea a balanced overview I’m told, it’s not that important, it’ll be alright.
The devil’s advocate position should be valued. The person in that role is trying to look at an idea from every possible angle. To find the flaw while there is time to fix it. They shouldn’t be ignored, they should be encouraged. Most of all, they shouldn’t be dismissed for speaking out against incompetence. Their main goal is to protect the thing.
Thus endeth the rant. For now!

I can’t keep trying to save the thing.

Doing what’s best for an organization can be a daunting task. Long hours, impossible goals, superiors that shouldn’t be, all for less that half a peanut outside of the shell. You keep saying to yourself “It’s for the org”. You believe in the thing, the entity. You try to save the thing, as much as others try to destroy it. You see the potential in the thing. What it could be if it were given the opportunity to thrive. But at every turn, there is a block, something that makes it harder and harder for the thing to be its best. You should’ve walked away a long time ago but you keep believing, “if you can just get everyone to try this or understand that”, one day it will run like a well oiled machine. You give it your all, you lose sleep, you feel pain because you know how great it could be. Then one day you wake up and realize, “I can’t save the thing”. You need help and it just isn’t there. So when that day comes, that you wake up and know…. You known for a while but you’ve pushed it away. Now it’s clear. You stand up and walk away.

You may come back in the future, but it will be on your terms. The real question is, will the thing survive?